Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why you shouldn't date a romance author

This time of year, I find myself making awkward conversation at a lot of events and dinner parties. Some are required for my career in marketing/PR, and some are the result of people knowing they can lure me to any public outing with the promise of free wine and a shrimp puff.

It’s only possible to discuss shrimp puffs with strangers for so long before conversations shift to the inevitable: “What do you do?”

Note: your response to this question should contain some element of career information and not details of what you ordered at your last Pure Romance party and how you put it to use.

If I’m looking to escape the conversation, I throw out a line about managing communications for my city’s tourism bureau. But if I know I’m going to be there awhile, I’ll mention my gig as a romance author.

That’s where the questions begin.

Some are industry related: Is it hard to get published? How did you get an agent? How many books have you written? Where can I find them?

Some make me giggle: How do you research your love scenes? Do you let your parents read them? Do you ever plan to write a REAL book?

Lately – perhaps because I’ve been dragging him to speaking engagements and dinner functions – a number have been directed at my gentleman friend: What’s it like to date a romance author? Do you worry you’ll end up in one of her scenes? Can she really put her ankles behind her head?

He takes it all in stride, which I appreciate. A mutual friend once described him as, “the least self-conscious person I’ve ever met,” which should probably be a requirement for anyone dating an author with a fondness for genital euphemisms.

Still, I feel like I’m walking a funny line. I invite the prying questions with the very nature of what I write and how I’ve chosen to put myself in the public arena. But when he accepted my dinner invitation eight months ago, I doubt he pictured himself in front of an audience of 65 library fundraisers responding to the question, “how does she get inspiration for her love scenes?”

(For the record, he handled it brilliantly, and didn’t bat an eyelash when they thrust the mike in his face. Also for the record, he’d find the phrase “thrust the mike in his face” as funny as I just did.)

How conscious do you have to be of the way your chosen occupation impacts the people around you? Does your job ever make for awkward dinner party conversations? Please share!

Oh, and to answer the aforementioned questions in random order, yes, no, all over the place, I’m not sure, yes, hard work, carefully, no, yes, interesting.


Malin said...

I'm very shy about my writing it seems. I do tell people I write, but a recent friend pointed out that not until she got to read one of my manuscripts did she stop thinking of me as a wannabe biologist (what I plan to study) and realised I really did write. But somehow it feels wrong to call myself a writer when I don't have an agent or a bookdeal.

Working in administration is the best way to avoid a conversation. No one knows what to ask about that.

Saying I'm a student is better for conversational topics.

Sarah W said...

Lately, when I mention I'm a librarian, I've been getting one or two of the following reactions:

"Oooo! Do you get to read all day?"

No. They lied to me. I actually have to work.

"You need a degree for that?"

To be a professional librarian, you need a graduate degree. And infinite patience.

"Really? I don't read."

How sad. That must be very difficult for you. If you decide to get help, come to the downtown branch and ask for me. No one else needs to know.

"Wait, I can read. I just think it's a waste of time."

My answer stands.

Mary said...

Your Friend sounds awesome -- your perfect foil, especially if he gets a kick out of all those lovely euphemisms.

Just picturing all the fun you could have answering those questions...

Roni Loren said...

This past weekend I went to a football game and happened to sit next to a friend of my dad's. When he asked what I do, I told him I write romance novels. After he admitted to reading every Nicholas Sparks books ever written, he asked. "So do your books have smut in them?"

Apparently he thought this was an appropriate question to ask your friend's daughter. My husband who was sitting on the other side of me nearly choked on his popcorn trying not to laugh. So what could I do? I nodded. "Yes, sir. Yes, they do. But the people don't die at the end so you may not like them."

Jen Stayrook said...

I think this is true for the significant others of all kinds of writers. My husband gets questions like, "Does she try to dress you up like Aragorn?" Yes, yes I do.

But I'm less articulate in public than you are and when you accidentally spit one too many bits of veggie dip on people, they kind of stop coming up to you to "chat."

Tina Moss said...

Oh yes. I definitely get the "probing" questions. Some of my favorites... "What's urban fantasy?" "Like Lord of the Rings?" "Oh so hobbits?" "What's paranormal romance?" "Oh so romance with vampires?" "Not vampires?" "But, it's like Twilight?" "Not, Twilight? Then, what is it?" *sigh*

Brandi Guthrie said...

@ Roni

Your comment totally cracked me up. Lol.

@ Tawna

I don't really talk about my writing anymore (not with strangers, anyway). I think it's because having a published erotica story and then going to school to be a teacher is probably not the best mix. (Which is why I use my maiden name for my smut.)

Claire Dawn said...

Man, I wish I was a romance writer, I'd have all sorts of double entendre throwing around. In YA, we just get the "are you afraid to write a grown-up book?" It's nowhere near as fun.

Sarah Allen said...

I don't know why, but I've always been a bit shy about saying the words "I am a writer." That seems so backwards, especially given I don't have any of the steamy stuff. At least not yet. It's nice to see people who just own what they do :) Good lesson in that.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Geoffrey Cubbage said...

Is it thoroughly shameless to point you over to the "Answering Questions About Your Writing Career: Cocktail Party Edition" I did a while back?


Well...can't shame the shameless, my mother always used to say. Can't think why; I expect she was talking to my brother.

Hope it helps with the parties! Even the Pure Romance ones.

Tawna Fenske said...

Malin, I’m ordering you to go back and read this post I wrote eons ago titled, “You ARE a real author, dammit!”

Sarah W, I think I might punch people more often if I heard questions like that.

Mary, I think I’ll keep him :)

Roni, this completely cracked me up! Nicely played.

Jen, I’ll have to remember the spitting trick. That’s a good one.

Tina, I get a lot of the “what’s it like?” questions. Sadly, I end up having to default to movies a lot.

Brandi, if I’m feeling like a smartass and someone asks what I write, my default answer is “funny smut.”

Claire Dawn, ‘tis true, romance authors have all the fun. Of course, we often get asked when we plan to write “real” books.

Sarah, I’m telling you the same damn thing I told Malin (in a spirit of love and friendship, of course). Go read my post about being a “real author:”

Geoffrey, bwahahahahahaha! Loved the post!

Thanks for reading, guys!

Noelle Pierce said...

Roni, I ♥ you. And you, Tawna.

My answer to that question gets all sorts of responses, whether I mention the day job (psychologist) or the wannabe day job (romance writer). When I've reassured them I won't psychoanalyze them (*fingers crossed*), they start asking about the steamy scenes I write, without much variation from what has already been mentioned. :D

Taymalin said...

I work at a daycare and have to be careful about what I say in front of people because of confidentiality. Sometimes the best stories can't be shared :(

Noelle: I have to bat the "are you psychoanalyzing me?" question too, even though all I have is a B.A. in psych. I've tried explaining to people that I'm not well-educated enough to psychoanalyze anyone, but usually end up telling them that I'll try to refrain.

People get really uncomfortable when you mention psychology.

Jean Paradis said...

"I ring up groceries," is a conversational dead end. I haven't yet been brave enough to say, "I have an erotic romance out there." I think I need to practice the words in front of the mirror. "I write really hot sex." So there!

Mike Garzillo said...

Great blog post and the comments afterward were honestly what it's like. But I do notice people ask "why" a lot, and rarely because of the challenges, more because it must be motivated by a lack of real sex or a desire for lots of fantasy-sex